Singaporean woman involved in US Navy's worst corruption scandal sentenced to 33 months' jail

Singaporean woman involved in US Navy's worst corruption scandal sentenced to 33 months' jail

gavel crime
File photo of a gavel. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean woman who was involved in the largest and most extensive bribery and fraud conspiracy in the history of the United States Navy was on Friday (Jul 6) sentenced to two years and nine months' jail. 

Gursharan Kaur Sharon Rachael, 57, was charged more than two years ago with corruption. The court heard that she received more than S$130,000 in bribes from Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian CEO of maritime services company Glenn Defense Marine (Asia) (GDMA), in exchange for sensitive US Navy information. 

Gursharan committed the offences while she was a former lead contract specialist with the US Navy and based in Singapore. Before she resigned in 2015, she had been an employee of the US Government for more than 25 years.

Her role with the US Navy included managing ship husbanding contracts worth millions of dollars, with duties such as drafting contract requirements, as well as negotiating and evaluating bids.

The bribes she received from Francis included S$100,000 in cash for a condominium apartment down payment and a Prudential policy. 

She also accepted more than S$30,000 worth of stays in luxury hotels like Ritz-Carlton in Bali and Dubai, as well as the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta.

Francis, nicknamed Fat Leonard, is in custody in the US and faces a maximum custodial term of 25 years for defrauding the navy of more than US$35 million (S$48 million). 

The scandal has also resulted in the arrest and conviction of several navy officials in the US.

Leonard Glenn Francis
File photo of Leonard Glenn Francis. (Facebook/Leonard Francis)

Between 2006 and 2013, Gursharan disclosed non-public information from the US Navy to Francis, which helped GDMA clinch 11 contracts worth a total of about US$48 million, out of 14 contracts that the company bid for.

The information she provided included pricing strategies, price information of GDMA's competitors and questions that the contracts review board had posed to GDMA's competitors, according to investigations by Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB)

The fraud was uncovered after GDMA became the focus of investigations in the US in 2012.

HIGH LEVEL OF PREMEDITATION, LARGE GRATIFICATION SUMS

Sentencing Gursharan to jail for three charges of corruption and one charge of dealing with benefits of criminal conduct, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said there was "flagrant abuse of trust and authority" by Gursharan. 

There was also "a high level of premeditation", with steps taken to avoid detection, a sustained period of offending of seven years and a "high amount of gratification" by the accused. 

Responding to defence lawyer Suresh Damodara's point that Gursharan was in remission from cancer and that prison was a high-stress environment that may cause a relapse, the judge said that Gursharan is not currently suffering from terminal illness and that she would be provided medical care while incarcerated.

The judge disagreed with the prosecution's point that the incident could cause a loss of confidence in Singapore's public administration, saying that the transactions were for private contracts, albeit involving the US Navy.

He also ordered that the S$130,278.34 surrendered by Gursharan to the CPIB to be forfeited to the anti-corruption agency.

For her corruption charges, Gursharan could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to S$100,000.

For acquiring, possessing, using, concealing or transferring benefits of criminal conduct, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to S$500,000. 

OTHER US NAVY PERSONNEL HAULED UP TO COURT

The other people involved in the broader fraud and bribery investigations have been charged or sentenced.

Francis, who pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentence in the US, has agreed to forfeit US$35 million in personal assets.

He had also bribed other US Navy personnel in order to secure lucrative ship-husbanding contracts to supply US Navy vessels at ports in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Twelve US Navy officials pleaded guilty in the US, while the highest-ranking official involved, Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau, was sentenced to 18 months' jail for making false statements to investigators.

Source: CNA/ll/(gs)

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